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April 15, 2013

On Managing My Own Mind – OR – Becoming Cyborg

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:12 am

Harbisson says a dream in which he heard colors made him realize what being a cyborg means. “It’s not the union between the eyeborg and my head that converts me into a cyborg, but the union between the software and my brain,” he said.

Facebook. Twitter. WordPress. Identi.ca. LiveJournal. Google+. Vimeo. MySpace. DeadJournal. YouTube. FetLife. PBWorks. GoogleDocs. Tumblr.

I think it was the Tumblr that did it. I have multiple personal accounts plus various dummy accounts on almost every one of these services and more. Each one holds a piece of my identity — some small, some large — and my brain keeps a map of where all the various parts of me are stored. At least, it did.

I’ve been “feeling weird” for the last few days. I can’t explain what it feels like except…weird. I haven’t even been able to tell if the feeling is physical, emotional, cognitive, or what. That’s unusual for me.

I went swimming this morning. I started off doing laps. But the deep end was full of bugs. There was also a huge-finned shark with gory bloody teeth, a giant snapping turtle 30ft across with ancient alien eyes, and monstrous squid with murderous beaks. So, after a few panicky moments, I mostly swam in circles around the shallow end and talked to myself about the fact that these haunts and terrors are actually in my head. Not in a trivializing, “Rebecca, it’s nothing; it’s all in your head” kind of way. Just reminding myself that these visions are real things and they are legitimately scary, but they’re things that live in my head not in the pool. Which means I can deal with them. I have lots of skills for managing what’s going on in my mind. Far more than I have skills for out-swimming sea monsters.

With the Tumblr account, I think, I’ve reached a critical mass of kaleidoscopic digital identity such that I can no longer keep a comprehensive map of myself in bio-memory. When I try to think about “Who I Am” online, sectors start to flicker on and off. Some get brighter while others get darker. I have the sense that there are puzzle pieces missing. My brain has ceased to contain the universal meta-model.

By the time I got out of the pool, I was swimming full length laps again while composing two new blog posts in my head.

Eventually, I’ll build a tech tool to map all the online parts of myself for me. (The password manager I use, LastPass, seems like a promising start. I can already feel myself interacting with my accounts differently because it’s become so much easier to pop back and forth — just select a self with the click of a mouse.) But for now, I’m kind of in freefall. And it feels, well, liberating. Among other things, since my brain feels less responsible for remembering All The Things, it can focus on just being whichever me I am in a given moment.

The 1st of April was Fool’s Day. The first card in the tarot deck is the Fool. Today is April 14th. The 14th card in the major arcana is Death. Death is the reset button.

Another potential benefit of delegating “Who Am I?” to exo-memory: Less worry that I’ll run out of resources to maintain new identity locations. In other words, I can be as prolific as I wanna be. (Which is very.) If I’m concerned that I might be overwhelming or poorly targeting my audience in a particular location, I can create something new. For example, say I want a place to braindump lots of abstract political analyses of BDSM without it cluttering up the blog that’s focused on technology and methodologies of intimacy. I can just do that. The solution to my existential dilemma around distributed selfhood isn’t to try and aggregate all of my selves into one cohesive whole. It’s to lean into scattering.

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April 10, 2013

On Being Crazy in Private

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:53 pm

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like…to just be crazy in private. It’s hard to imagine. I’ve lived on the public Internet since I was a child. Sharing my most private thoughts with complete strangers feels normal. Comforting. It seems lonely to imagine being trapped inside my own mind with my thoughts all the time. And, perhaps not so strangely, the craziest parts feel like the most important parts to share. I don’t want to sit alone in a room and have to look my shadow self in the face. Far better if I can pull a Perseus and only look at the scariest parts of me as they’re reflected off of other people. Other people are far more polite about them.

I sometimes wonder about how having this massive international reflecting mirror changes my psychology. Does it amplify my feelings or allow me to vent them such that I don’t explode or both? But the truth is, if I were just “crazy in private,” what that might actually look like is leaning on my intimate network for more support than they have the resources to give me. Or, on the flipside, it might mean “getting my shit together” in order to prevent that imbalance from happening.

I signed up for this online class: Transforming Our Suffering – Online Family Mental Health Recovery Education and Support Course. Well, by “signed up” I mean I expressed interest to the person who’s running it and she wrote me back and asked about my motivations for wanting to join the course. It took me about a week to respond because it was a hard e-mail to write. I told her that, while I know what I mean when I say words like “family” and “mental health,” I’m not sure what she means by them, so I don’t know if I’m the target audience for the class. I talked about some of my mental health stuff and sent links. I talked a little bit about Dakota, Lilly, and May, as they’re currently the people in whose well-being I’m the most personally invested. I talked about Mom. I told her about going through a process of healing and recovery and wanting to bring what I’ve learned back to my community in general and to the people I’m close to specifically. I told her that I don’t really know where I, or any of my loved ones, fit on a map drawn by the psychiatric-industrial complex. Then, I hit send.

A little later, I was cleaning out my inbox and came across this link I’d texted myself a while ago: NAMI-DAC National Alliance on Mental Illness, Dona Ana County. They’d had an event where folks living with mental illness gave monologues about their experiences. I’d wanted to go and was surprised by how disappointed I felt on realizing I’d missed it. I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to figure out where I fit.

I have a complicated relationship with “crazy”. I’m sure that’s normal. I fought the label so hard, for so long, because it was a word that, to my mind, simply meant “like my mother”. As a teenager, I didn’t have any clear articulation of what might actually be going on for my mom mental-health-wise. I just knew that everyone described her as “crazy” and that “crazy” was an epithet and I didn’t know how to disentangle “crazy” from “abusive” and I didn’t want to be either. Then, at some point, I actually started embracing the label and that was freeing, but also complicated because I didn’t know and still don’t know whether I’m “crazy enough” to be entitled to it. My experience of “mental illness”, if that’s what you want to call it and if that’s what it even is, is so extremely buffered by other kinds of privilege including and non-trivially the privilege to afford very good mental health care. (Although, admittedly, as I pointed out in my earlier e-mail today, this is partly because I choose to spend the money I do have on therapy instead of, like, clothes or devices or owning a car. And I prioritize like that for Reasons. So, that’s a thing.)

There’s a part of me that wants to connect more meaningfully with other folks who are thinking about, talking about, working on, and experiencing mental health challenges because…I want more skills and tools and frameworks for myself and to share. On the other hand, I’ll be honest: A part of me worries that if I spend more time around crazy people, especially people who aren’t ashamed of it or fighting tooth and nail to not be crazy, that I’ll end up becoming even crazier than I am. And that scares me. Because this isn’t actually that much fun. And it’s not exactly that I’d want to change who I am…but the crazy parts of “who I am” are pretty challenging for me and for my loved ones. I’ve no need to make them even more challenging than they already are.

But I’m lonely. One thing that’s been a little hard for me, lately, re: the degree to which I’m “crazy in public” is that the public internet has been moving further and further away from being a place to commune with like-minded strangers and become (at least for me) a tool that augments interactions with existing friends, intimates, and acquaintances. This is a great tool to have. But, because I think I relate to the notions of personal privacy and transparency differently from many, I find myself sharing masses of extremely personal thoughts and feelings with people who care about me but who aren’t sharing reciprocally. And that makes me feel a bit like a bug under a microscope. Much more, for some reason, than when I was writing about Winterover depression to a thousand strangers who, for the most part, didn’t actually care about me but found my depression to be an interesting and worthwhile subject.

There’s a difference between people who care about my mental health because they care about me and people whose (at least initial) interest in me is that they care about my mental health. Does that make sense? Both are important to have in my life. Having them in the same space is kind of rough.

I want to be able to be radically transparent about the insides of my brain, and I want to be able to do that in ways that aren’t excessively burdensome to the people I’m building a life with. I’m not sure how to do this yet. It’s one of the things I’m hoping to learn more about.

Anyway. Today was a Crazy day, for sure. But I dealt with it mostly by just going home to the Internet. And that was good.

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